Now this will be a peek behind the curtain, as it were. I'll give you some background to start with - in this case, on my story, "The Quiet On The Water", which is now out in the August issue of Weirdbook Magazine. Issue 36, FYI. When did I write this story?
Nearly 4 years ago.
Let that sink in for a while, let it percolate, let it simmer. I wrote that story nearly 4 years ago. The earliest draft I could find was from 1st January 2014. And since then, it's been sent to a total of 16 publishers before it's now found a home in the current issue of Weirdbook.
But 4 years?
Imagine you were trying to sell a car. Or a house. Imagine how you'd feel if they took that long.
Now whenever I tell Mama that I got a rejection (and I do tell her), she'll ask what's going wrong that I'm getting so many rejections. She'll ask if my work isn't any good - she may even ask if there's something I could do to improve it.
Mama sees the whole writing thing in abstract terms. I know she does. Sure, her youngest writes. He spends a lot of time writing and apparently needs to take some time to relax. And it's good when he says that there's another batch of submissions done or, better yet, that another story's been sold. But to actually put one of those books or magazines in her hand? Ahhhh, okay, then. But to read it? What, all of it? Yes, it's a short story - emphasis on the word 'short.' Then there's disenchantment and some lame protestation. Sure, she thinks it's great there's something I do. But to read that shit? No. Not happening. And I'm okay with that.
I still maintain that no matter how good you are at your game, there will be those who simply don't like what you do. What you do will just fail to move some people. I'm okay with that too. Because somewhere out there is your audience, and they'll love you for what you do. Hell, they'll want more of the same.
From when "The Quiet On The Water" was written all those years ago, it's been sent to and rejected by 16 publishers. While it came from an idea I'd been rolling around in my head for a while, it actually fit the bill for an upcoming anthology called Wrapped In White. This was the first place I submitted it to, early in January 2014. While it made the shortlist, it didn't make the final cut, although it seemed to meet with approval. This is something that's lost on Mama, and I imagine it's something that's lost on the reading audience at large. I'm sure it's lost on some authors too: just because your story is rejected, it doesn't mean that story isn't any good. Assuming you've delivered something within the framework of the publisher's guidelines, your story might not move them. Or the publisher might want something longer/shorter. Or something that fits with the tone of other stories they're looking at for the finished publication. Etc. etc. etc. A number of reasons.
Over the years, feedback has been varied. Some said it didn't quite work for them, it was interesting but slow, that they enjoyed reading it even though it didn't make the final cut. Very little has been changed from the original draft, if anything. Some authors may be easily deterred to the point where they hack at and butcher the story into something that fits what the publisher/editor wants. What you 'should' be doing is writing what you want, and then looking for the publisher/editor who wants THAT. The acceptance for The Quiet On The Water was, by the way, enthusiastic.
"The Quiet On The Water" is a personal favourite of mine, certainly in terms of the creative process. It's one of those stories that, if memory serves, I got down in one take - and that's despite the level of research that went into it. Everything from fishing/game laws in Canada to specifications for a Century boat. What local weather would be like. The songs of the Dave Matthews Band. Listening to tracks from the band. Listening to audio files of water rippling out on a lake, against the hull of a boat. Lou, one the characters in the tale, was inspired by a real-life Lou who used to do time in MuscleWorks like me. Older guy, squat, thick biceps. Didn't speak or smile a whole lot, but a genuinely cool guy. Always there to spot a guy when there was seated pressing to do. He doesn't hit MuscleWorks now, but his ex-training partner does. So when the opportunity arises, I might see if I can hit him off with a copy of this month's Weirdbook.
So. Nearly 4 years getting that work to the masses.
My last short story rejection came in yesterday. Submitted nearly 3 months ago and chased for an update yesterday. Is it a setback? Yeah, maybe. But that's all it is. Three months to wait for a rejection is nothing, especially when you're prepared to wait over 3 years for an acceptance.
Now bear in mind that I'm always writing. I've written a number of works since the first draft of The Quiet On The Water. At the time of this entry, I'm still doing the 'A Story A Week' challenge from This Is Horror, with 43 stories in the bag already. I don't make a habit of putting all my eggs in one basket. What I want to do is to place as much A-grade work as I can. So this is no different. And patient is exactly what I'm going to be. I've seen this on social media in more recent times, everything from the bickering and squabbles to the laments on not getting work placed it. I get it. Truly, I do. But here's where I can honestly say I have my eye on the big picture. You are not going to fold me.
There's a quote that says Death comes to us all. And you know what? So will I. That's no threat, that's just a statement of fact: I'm stalking the genre. I'm just getting started.